SEWARD, Neb. – Up against its fifth nationally-ranked opponent already this season, the battle-tested Bulldog volleyball squad understood what kind of effort it would take to compete with No. 14 Doane. However, the talented Tiger offense, led by middle blocker Susan Rollman and setter Miranda Wisehart, proved too powerful in taking a 25-23, 25-22, 25-12 win at Walz Arena on Tuesday night.
Concordia (3-7, 0-2 GPAC) seemed to feed off a great Bulldog crowd in the early going of its home opener. The Bulldogs narrowly lost the first two sets and even out-hit Doane (14-4, 1-1 GPAC) in the first game, .282-.275. When in system, the Concordia attack gave the Tigers trouble.
“When (Amanda Kisker or Kim Miller) got blocked, it was generally when we were out of system,” Bulldog head coach Scott Mattera said. “And Doane could just set up a big double block and sit there on them. You notice when we were in system and could hold something with our middle hitters, our hitting percentage was through the roof. If we can stay in system, we’re going to be a very dangerous team.”
Unfortunately for Concordia, Doane remained in system often as Wisehart routinely executed beautifully in setting up her middles Rollman and Emily Max. Wisehart dished 33 assists and the lethal combo of Rollman and Axmann hit .579 and .545, respectively, with 19 combined kills.
The Bulldogs were led once again by the senior outside hitter Kisker, who tallied 12 kills. Miller followed with eight kills. Sophomore setter Jami Nekoliczak paced the squad with 18 assists.
While the third and final set was dominated by the Tigers, who hit .435 in game No. 3, Mattera was pleased with how his team pushed another top-notch foe.
“I was actually really happy with the first two games,” Mattera said. “We had a lot of opportunities to win. We did not take advantage of those opportunities, but showed tonight that when we play our system, it works against even one of the best teams in the country.”
The Bulldogs have now played No. 12 Oklahoma Baptist, No. 13 Grand View (Iowa), No. 14 Doane, No. 19 Bellevue and No. 22 Midland in a difficult early-season schedule that saw their first nine matches played outside of Seward.
Mattera, coaching his first career match within the friendly confines of Walz Arena, enjoyed the enthusiasm of the crowd and has his sights set on taking the game day atmosphere to an even higher level.
“This was fantastic. I thought the turnout was great,” Mattera said. “We’ve got to train our crowd to expect to win as much as we do. We’ve got to get our student section up, and we’re training them to cheer and we’re recruiting some of those loud, crazy college students to come in and be our cheerleaders. We’ll get this place rocking and it will be a tough place to play real soon.”
Concordia will get back on the court on Friday when it plays Northwestern in Orange City, Iowa, at 7:30 p.m. The Bulldogs’ next home match is Saturday, Sept. 22 when Dakota Wesleyan comes to town.